13-year-old Hauwa* was held captive by Boko Haram for over four years. Abducted when she was just nine years old, she was forced into marriage at the age of 11.
She managed to escape only in June 2019 and while her family is being traced, she is currently living with one of Plan International’s foster families and has started attending school for the first time in her life.
Here, she tells the story of her capture and escape.
“Before Boko Haram came, we were really happy. I have an older brother and an older sister, so there are three of us plus my parents. I come from a town close to the border with Cameroon, but one day we crossed over to Borno state in Nigeria. I was sent to the market to buy something when Boko Haram came in and captured me and a lot of other girls and women.
They took us to a town and from there we just kept moving from one place to the next. We lived in tents made from reeds and I was forced to get married when I was 11. I was one of two wives that he had, and I had to do a lot of sweeping and attend Islamic school every day.
There was a woman I lived near to who planned for us to escape. We left at night and started running. We came to a place where almost every house had been completely bombed out. Most of the people had been killed and there was nobody there. We continued and found somewhere to sleep and then carried on our journey the next day.
As we were running, we saw some soldiers coming and made our way towards them. They told us to raise our hands and searched us to check that we weren’t suicide bombers and then they told us to come with them and they took us to a detention centre. When I saw them, I was very happy because I knew I had succeeded in escaping.
Now, I can’t wait to see my family again. I’ve been in Borno for two months and I’ve been attending the Accelerated Learning Programme and I’m now in school, which is something I had never done before. I’m learning and I’m really enjoying it. It’s also really nice to spend time in the Child Friendly Space and to make new friends.
When I grow up, I want to be a social worker, like the case worker I have from Plan International who is helping me. The thing I think that girls like me need the most is help so that we can go to school. That is the most important thing to me at the moment.
*Name has been changed to protect identity
For more information, please contact:
Amina Issa Oumarou
Regional Lake Chad Programme Advocacy and Communications Specialist
Landline: (+227) 20 72 45 24
Mobile: +227 95 00 68 68
Mobile: +234 (0)8116 759 755
About Plan International
Plan International is an independent child rights and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls.
We believe in the power and potential of every child. But this is often suppressed by poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination. And it’s girls who are most affected. Working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners, we strive for a just world, tackling the root causes of the challenges facing girls and all vulnerable children.
We support children’s rights from birth until they reach adulthood. And we enable children to prepare for – and respond to – crises and adversity. We drive changes in practice and policy at local, national and global levels using our reach, experience and knowledge.
We have been building powerful partnerships for children for over 80 years and are now active in more than 75 countries.